Attention. Wanting in today’s context has a negative connotation. In the era of selfies, profiles, and followers, I can see how we easily get it wrong.
However, on the other hand, a world void of attention would be disastrous as well, given that no one would take the time to see others, ask them questions, care about their life, celebrate their victories, console them during the storms (to highlight some of its admirable attributes). The void would be filled by thankless work, unappreciated friendship, empty interactions, and bigger crisis of self-worth…a world in black and white. Therefore, there is a rightful place for a healthy dose of attention in our lives.
Constructive attention, as hinted at above, is that which takes notice of those around us. It asks them critical questions. It cares about the monumental life wonderings as well as the trivial daily happenings. Constructive attention cares for another’s physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. Constructive attention compels phone calls, not to ask a favor, but to ask how a day was. It shares wisdom and life lessons learned first-hand in hopes that others can bypass the mistakes you have made. Constructive attention seeks fellowship that, as a result, enriches others’ lives in a substantive and meaningful way. It’s a selfless investment, driven by compassion and without forethought of a return.
As leaders, I see an unquestionable need for us to give attention… this constructive attention… to the youth and young adults around us.
As I have grown in ministry life has become a patchwork of responsibilities and experiences, meaning there have been a plethora of fields in which to serve. Out of all of them, I can resolutely say that being a big brother is the best. However by birth, I am the youngest, and in terms of the ministry gifts, Ephesians 4 does not list this as one. Interesting.
The more familiar terms used in lieu of “big brother” (or big sister for the ladies) are mentor, life coach or discipler. There is such value and relevance in the function of these positions. That function being to raise up those around you, draw out the potential in their life, and be a trustworthy comrade throughout the process. Essentially, it’s the intentional act of giving someone your attention. Today’s teens need to know they matter, and they need to hear it from people like you who have gone one step further down life’s trail. Another naysayer or detached leader will do little to impact, but a big brother (or sister) that can encourage and guide is priceless.
Think. You were there. A teenager-verging-on-twenty-something, figuring out life. You were full of hopes, dreams. You were also full of questions like how to get from “A” to “B” or “what does a calling look like”. You were battling reality and the system in order to see your vision break ground. Most of all, you wished there was someone who cared and really saw you and cared enough to ask what those dreams were and what fears or concerns you had for the future. If only there was someone to whom you could relate who was just a step or two ahead in life, which has enabled them to have “been there” while remaining relevant. You were in need of a big brother.
I can easily step back and see this play out through my life. Don’t misunderstand; I’ve had amazing friends, supportive family, and wise people around. But that camaraderie, commitment, and delicate balance of a friend/mentor who could guide me in ministry but still sought genuine fellowship was not so present, and I hardly doubt I am alone.
If you were wondering, this ministry does not pay and you cannot be hired. It is comprised of intentional friendships that come from intentional effort. The result is a life full of color that is painted by diverse people who each add their own unique hue. Regardless of the fact as to whether you had this for yourself or not, you can be this for someone now. Take the first step to look for these people around in your social circles or at your church, and get to know them. Don’t be afraid to pray together; don’t be afraid to go for a run or have a coffee. Be real, be fun, share life. Listen.
People are incredible, and if all of you amazing guys who are reading now would designate a small percentage of your allotted minutes on this earth to invest in a friend a bit younger than you, what a game changer that would be! I can assure you that the blessing would be mutual. I say it again: people are incredible. Look for someone who is further up the path and love them, invest in them, be intentional, and give them some attention. It’s a good thing.